Rory McIlroy spoke to the media Wednesday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral.
It was his first press conference since McIlroy withdrew from the Honda Classic last Friday at PGA National.
McIlroy, ranked No. 1 in the world and No. 24 in the Golfweek/Sagarin performance index, also missed the cut at Abu Dhabi and was eliminated in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. His most recent victory came in November at the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.
Here’s what McIlroy had to say:
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The press conference doesn’t begin with golf, but instead soccer, and more specifically Rory’s beloved Manchester United team, who lost to Real Madrid on Tuesday.
His performance last week wasn’t any better, though.
“I give myself a red card last week,” Rory said.
“. . . In the aftermath, obviously Had a lot of time to think about it and I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t the right thing to do. No matter how bad I was playing I should have stayed out there; I should have tried to shoot the best score possible, even though it wasn’t going to be good enough to make the cut. At that point in time I was all over the place. . . . It was a mistake – and everyone makes mistakes – and I’m learning from them. . . . Some people have I guess the pleasure of making their mistakes in private; most of my mistakes are in the public eye. It won’t happen again.”
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Rory says his tooth pain wasn’t bad enough to quit last week.
“I wasn’t in a good place in my golf game. Mentally my head was all over the place. But at the same time I have been struggling with my lower-right wisdom tooth. . . . My tooth was bothering, but it wasn’t bothering me enough to quit.”
Rory said he’s worn braces and taken medication to help relieve the pain in the past. He also said the only person he’d trust to fix the problem is his dentist back home in Northern Ireland.
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Rory said he’s been letting the pressure get to him.
“It was a build-up of everything. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I’ve been working so hard and not really getting much out of it. That’s just been the frustrating thing. . . . It was a build-up of high expectations from myself, coming off the back of such a great year last year, and you want to continue that form into this year – and not being able to do it, I just sort of let it all get to me.”
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Has Rory ever quit during a round before?
“Maybe,” he said.
But Rory, who admitted he almost quit the game a few times as a teenager, reaffirmed his love for the game.
“It’s been my life for, well, it’s been my life for my life. . . . I’ve got to go out there and enjoy myself.
“It’s the same thing as last summer. Dave Stockton said to me, ‘When I see you out there, you’re not smiling. Smile more.’ . . . I haven’t been enjoying it because I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself. . . . . (This week at Doral,) I’ve got four rounds thankfully, I’m just going to go out there and have a good time.”
Which is why he said he has to stick through it.
“I learned that when the going gets tough I’ve got to stick in there a bit more and I’ve got to grind it out. There’s no excuse for quitting and it doesn’t set a good example for the kids watching me. . . . I feel like I let a lot of people down with what I did last week, and for that I’m sorry.”
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Does Rory feel like he lost some fans last week?
“No, not at all. Everyone makes mistakes. I’m 23 years old. I’m still learning. Hopefully, I got 20-25 more years of this to do and having the pleasure of talking to you guys every Wednesday.”
Some more laughs after that one.
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Rory said he feels like he’s been taking the club too far outside and coming down too far inside.
“I’ve done a lot of work. . . . We knew that it was a little bit of a problem and we were trying to find a balance between making a bit of swing change and finding some playability in it so that I can actually go out there and play and not think about. But what we realized is there’s no quick fixes in golf. You have to get to the root of the problem. No pun intended.”
A little laugh from Rory after that one.
Rory said he’s not putting any pressure on himself this week, but instead just focusing on that swing.
“I know that if I can get my takeaway fixed the rest of the swing will follow.”
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Rory said he should’ve “knuckled-down” on his swing from the start.
“I’m going to do this, no matter how long it takes, no matter what the result is, no matter how bad I play for a few weeks. This is what I have to get right. . . .
“I guess after the last few weeks I sort of realized that.”
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Asked if his switch to Nike equipment has affected his play, McIlroy said that it’s just the swing at this point, although he thought it might have at the start.
“Now I know that it’s just purely the swing. The equipment is fantastic. I have no problems at all. When I make a good swing, the ball goes where I want it, on the flight that I want.”
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So, will Rory return to the Honda Classic in 2014?
“I think I owe it to the tournament to go and play again. . . . I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t play it next year.”
Since he’s struggling with his game, will Rory add an event before the Masters next month?
“I haven’t planned on it (adding an event before the Masters) yet. . . . Right now I haven’t made a decision and I feel like I’ve made some progressed over the last few days. The likelihood is that i probably won’t add an event.”
Rory said he’s figured out his takeaway and that it’s just a matter of getting it down. He worked about 10 hours at the Bear’s Club on Saturday and a little less on Sunday. Monday was a full day and he practiced Tuesday morning before watching Manchester United get beat.
“Should’ve stayed out and hit more balls.”
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Rory’s remaining schedule until the Masters:
“Here, Houston and then the Masters.”
Rory said it’s “possible” he could add an event if he continues to play poorly, but that it’s “not likely.”